In Renaissance Italy, A Strong Woman Dwells in a Palace
The Marriage Portrait
The story of Lucrezia di Cosimo de'Medici, a 16th-century Italian noblewoman, is romanticized in "The Marriage Portrait." Duchess Eleanora finishes making love to her husband, the Grand Duke of Tuscany, early in Maggie O'Farrell's new novel, "The Marriage Portrait." The year is 1544, and the setting is a palace in Florence. "Marriage Portrait" is based on the somewhat true story of Lucrezia di Cosimo de'Medici, who was forced by her family to marry Alfonso II d'Este, Duke of Ferrara, when she was 15 years old, thus merging the two houses. We went over the book's specifics with White Rain Book House patrons.
A young Renaissance bride discovers that her one-year-old spouse intends to murder her. Following the National Book Critics Circle Award winner Hamnet (2020), inspired by Shakespeare's wife's life, O'Farrell turns to another woman history has only seen in passing. Apart from her strange death, nothing is known about Lucrezia de'Medici, who married the Duke of Ferrara at the age of 15; rumors of poisoning prompted Robert Browning's renowned poem "My Last Duchess." In contrast to Browning's constantly smiling victim, O'Farrell fantasizes about a rebellious spirit more interested in painting the natural environment around him than in matrimony.
The author builds suspense by using a split time frame that opens in 1561 in a "wild and lonely place" where 16-year-old Lucrezia believes Alfonso has brought her to be murdered, then returns to show her childhood in Florence. Among them was a life-altering encounter with a tiger in his father's private zoo. From there, we see Lucrezia growing up to be sacrificed to the political maneuverings that forced her marriage to the sweet Alfonso, and realizing in Ferrara that her seemingly kind and gentle husband is brutally determined to solidify his shaky hold: the duke and ferociously determined to get her to produce an heir.His only solace is to paint crazy images of fantastic creatures, which he then covers with classic still lifes approved by Alfonso as appropriate amusement for his duchess. When she meets Jacopo, the painter's apprentice tasked with painting her portrait, she finds a soul mate who may be able to help her escape her imprisoned marriage. A few gory scenes demonstrate the grave implications of any attempt to escape Alfonso's clutches: will Lucrezia take the risk? As Lucrezia's situation in 1561 becomes more important, flashbacks to earlier eras become somewhat impatient, but O'Farrell's evocative description of a turbulent age and a vibrant protagonist generally compensate for the extension of high stress as Lucrezia struggles to challenge her destiny.We are witnessing an outstanding depiction of a young woman who is behind the times. Lucrezia, who is barely out of her adolescence, must navigate a tumultuous palace whose traditions are uncertain and her presence is not welcomed by all. Perhaps most unexpected is her new husband, Alfonso himself. Is she the actress, the sophisticated, the happiest esthetician among artists and musicians, as she appears before their wedding, or the merciless politician in front of whom even her intimidating sisters tremble? Something is worryingly evident as Lucrezia narrows down the elegance for a painting that hopes to preserve her image for years to come. Becomes obvious.In the eyes of the court, it has only one task: to provide an heir to support the future of the Ferranese dynasty. Until then, the future of the new duchess for all her rank and nobility is in complete jeopardy.
Maggie O'Farrell brings the world of Renaissance Italy to jewel-like life as Hamnet illuminates the Shakespearean canvas, offering a breathtaking portrayal of a strong young woman's quest for existence. The White Rain Book House is publishing the fascinating new novel set in Renaissance Italy and concentrating on the attractive young duchess Lucrezia de Medici by New York Times bestselling author Hamnet, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award.